Stardom “The Highest 2017” on 3/20/17 Review

Event: Stardom “The Highest 2017”
Date: March 20th, 2017
Location: Korakuen Hall in Tokyo, Japan
Announced Attendance: 820

It feels like every week I am doing a Stardom review lately, but I am trying to hit all of the Korakuen Hall events this year for all Joshi promotions. So here we are again with Stardom, with another stacked show. “The Highest” is their annual big Spring offering, so they tend to put on a complete event. Three titles are being defended, plus we get a singles match between Mayu Iwatani and Hana Kimura. Here is the full card:

Like the last show, I am watching the Samurai TV version of the event, which means clipped matches and better production. The Samurai TV airings are just an easier watch, and the opening matches being clipped isn’t really a big deal to me even though in the perfect world I prefer full matches. As always, you can click on the wrestler’s name above to go to their profile for more information.

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Arisu Nanase and Ruaka vs. Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuko Tora

We kick off the show with the usual Rookie Battle, except Yoneyama has returned to keep them in line. Arisu and Ruaka are literal children, at 15 and 12 respectively, while Natsuko is a much older rookie as she is 26. The experience levels of the newer wrestlers isn’t too far apart, but the age gap between the two teams is likely too great for Arisu and Ruaka to overcome.

stardom3-20-1Ruaka and Arisu attack before the match starts and isolate Yoneyama, as both chop her in the chest. Yoneyama fights back with Mongolian Chops but Arisu and Ruaka knock her into the ropes. We clip ahead to Arisu trading elbows with Natsuko, side Russian leg sweep by Natsuko and she hits a running senton for a two count. Yoneyama comes in, Natsuko launches off her back but Arisu rolls out of the way of the senton attempt. Double wrist armsault by Arisu to Natsuko, but it gets a two count. Arisu tags in Ruaka and Natsuko is double teamed in the corner, Ruaka tries to slam Natsuko but Natsuko blocks it, reverse STO by Ruaka and she kicks Natsuko in the head for a two count. Yoneyama comes in and hits a double crossbody on both her opponents, Ruaka goes for a few quick pins on Natsuko but she kicks out each time. Arisu dropkicks Natsuko, La Magistral by Ruaka but it gets a two count. Natsuko drop toeholds Ruaka before Yoneyama hits a senton, Natsuko ties up Ruaka’s legs and holds her down for the three count! Kaori Yoneyama and Natsuko Tora are the winners.

This was clipped and rough around the edges for sure, but there is some promise here. Arisu has shown some skill, and Ruaka has the much needed size that is lacking with most of Stardom’s rookie wrestlers. Skippable as presented, unless you just want to see the potential future stars of the promotion, assuming they don’t all quit within a year.

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AZM and HZK vs. Christi Jaynes and Deonna Purrazzo vs. Konami and Zoe Lucas

With so many events bunched together, we still have the same gaijins around that we had on the last several shows I reviewed. AZM and HZK represent Queen’s Quest, while Christi and Deonna are both young American wrestlers. Konami is one of my favorite Freelancers, she is 20 years old and was trained by Kana, while Zoe is a young wrestler from England. All six of these wrestlers are relatively early in their careers as I think Deonna is the oldest at 22, although these three way tag team matches tend to not give much of anyone a chance to stand out so I have low expectations going in.

stardom3-20-2Zoe, HZK, and Deonna start the match off, they do a triple lockup but they break cleanly. They do it again with the same result, they take turns elbowing each other until Zoe and Deonna get into a shoving match. HZK goes off the ropes but Deonna armdrags her, and all three wrestlers miss dropkicks. They all tag out, Konami kicks Jaynes but Jaynes boots her to the mat. Konami kicks her again, AZM jumps in and she throws Konami into Jaynes before throwing down Konami by the hair. She does the same to Jaynes as well, HZK comes in and they both facewash their opponents in different corners. They go to do it again but are grabbed by Deonna and Zoe from the apron, allowing Konami and Jaynes to dropkick them. We clip ahead to Zoe being double teamed by Jaynes and Deonna, Jaynes considers doing a dive but is tripped from the floor before she can do so. Konami and HZK get in the ring and trade strikes, Konami wins the battle but HZK recovers and elbows her back. High kick by Konami and she hits a fisherman suplex hold before putting HZK in an ankle hold, but ppp and Jaynes end up coming in the ring to break things up. Jaynes stays in and kicks HZK in the head, cover by Jaynes but it gets two. Apparently they aren’t doing any type of tag rule. Konami comes in and tries to kick HZK but she kicks Jaynes by accident, HZK takes care of Konami before going up top and hitting the Atomic Bombs Away for the three count! AZM and HZK win!

This wasn’t good in any sense of the word. Part of it wasn’t their fault, as the clipping just made it seem even less cohesive of a match than it probably already was. But not all of these wrestlers are particularly talented – they are young, it takes time – which lead to some awkward exchanges. Konami had a good segment briefly with HZK, two of the better wrestlers in the match, but besides that nothing worth watching.

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(c) Kris Wolf vs. Hiromi Mimura
High Speed Championship

We have reached our first championship match of the night, as everyone’s favorite meat eater defends against old young wrestler Hiromi. Kris Wolf won the championship in February from Mayu Iwatani in a triple threat match, this is her second defense of the title but her first singles match defense. Hiromi Mimura is 30 years old but is in her second year of wrestling, I guess you could say she is a late bloomer. This is Hiromi’s first singles match for a championship, so I am sure she’ll give it her all to impress.

stardom3-20-3Kris avoids Hiromi to start but they eventually tie up, Hiromi gets Kris to the mat but Kris gets to the ropes for a break. Back up, they trade holds until Hiromi gets Kris down again, but Kris tries to smother Hiromi with her tail. That doesn’t work, but Kris kicks her away anyway, Hiromi pushes Kris in the corner and she delivers a dropkick. They both go off the ropes and trade trips and armdrags, until both wrestlers face off once again. Hiromi goes off the ropes and hits a crossbody, rolling leglock by Hiromi but Kris wiggles away. Dropkick by Hiromi, Kris recovers and hits a knee and the pair trade strikes. Kris slides under Hiromi’s legs and delivers a high kick, she goes up top but Hiromi recovers and knocks Kris down to the floor. Hiromi dives off the apron with a crossbody onto Kris, Hiromi slides Kris back in and she covers Kris for two. Hiromi goes up top but Kris avoids the diving crossbody, Kris quickly rolls her up but Hiromi reverses it and applies La Magistral for two. Bulldog armdrag (or something) out of the corner by Hiromi, but Kris barely kicks out of the pin. Hiromi goes up top but Kris elbows her and suplexes Hiromi off the turnbuckles, Kris gets on the top turnbuckle and nails the diving double kneedrop, but Hiromi kicks out at two. Kris quickly grabs Hiromi’s legs and holds down Hiromi again, and this time she gets the three count! Kris Wolf is still the champion.

By default, I love all of Kris Wolf’s matches because I love her, and for a clipped midcard match I thought this was pretty solid. Hiromi’s only weakness is her wrestling, which is a major one, as she is on point with being feisty and comedic and sympathetic. Unfortunately this match wasn’t designed to emphasize her strengths since Kris is just as small as she is, and since it was a title match they weren’t really doing comedy spots. Kris showed off some new moves, now that she is a champion she seems to have stepped it up another notch as this was a more ‘straight’ match than she usually does. Overall, a bit too clipped to get excited about, but if you like Kris then you’ll probably enjoy it.

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Hana Kimura vs. Mayu Iwatani

Our break between title matches, as the young Freelancer Hana Kimura takes on the often discussed Mayu Iwatani. Hana Kimura missed some time due to a wrist injury, she is just now beginning her second year as a pro wrestler but has already seen a good amount of success. Her mother being Kyoko Kimura may have helped. Mayu Iwatani is a constant source for rumors these days but is still one of the top wrestlers in Stardom, so Hana is going to need a lot of help from Oedo Tai to stand a chance.

stardom3-20-4After a dance off (which Hana clearly wins), they clip us ahead to Hana and Kris attacking Mayu on the apron. Hana goes off the ropes but Mayu kicks her in the stomach and then in the face, kick to the back by Mayu and she snapmares Hana so she can kick her in the back again. Hana gets up and the two trade elbows, until Hana takes off her cloth belt and jokes Mayu with it. Double knee by Hana in the corner and she delivers a dropkick, picking up a two count. Hana picks up Mayu but Mayu applies a guillotine, which Hana muscles out of and hits a vertical suplex for two. Hana goes up top and delivers a missile dropkick, getting another two count. Hana goes off the ropes but Mayu avoids the boot and hits a superkick, German suplex by Mayu but Hana kicks out. Mayu goes off the ropes and hits a dropkick, another dropkick by Mayu while Hana is against the ropes and she nails a diving footstomp. Mayu goes for a Dragon Suplex but Hana blocks it and boots Mayu in the face. Both wrestlers are slow to get up, Hana recovers first and elbows Mayu but Mayu hits a high kick followed by a German suplex hold for two. Mayu picks up Hana and nails the Dragon Suplex Hold, picking up the three count! Mayu Iwatani is your winner.

Unfortunately, too much of this was clipped (about half) on the Samurai TV airing for me to give much of a recommend it, even though what we saw was fun. Hana is really good at the sexy seductress role, and it shows her versatility as she doesn’t act like that in the other promotions she wrestles in. Mayu’s moves all looked killer here, both the dropkick against the ropes and diving footstomp were on point, and of course her dragon suplex is a thing of beauty. I liked everything that I saw, it likely was so heavily clipped because it was a non-title match but at least what they showed was entertaining.  Mildly Recommended

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(c) Toni Storm vs. Jungle Kyona
SWA Women’s Undisputed Championship

Since debuting in November of 2015, Kyona has had several shots at singles championships but so far has come up short. This won’t be an easy one for her, as Toni Storm has held the SWA Championship since last July and has been virtually unbeatable in Stardom. Jungle Kyona did finally win a tag team championship earlier this month to win her first gold, but a singles championship is what she really wants. Kyona is only in her second year, but has already impressed fans with her skill level, which she gets another chance to do here against a top tier opponent.

stardom3-20-5Kyona and Storm tie-up but they break cleanly, waistlock by Kyona and she gets Storm to the mat. Storm switches positions with her and goes for Kyona’s knee but Kyona gets into the ropes, Storm starts on Kyona’s arm but Kyona gets out of it and the two trade holds. Storm goes for a cross armbreaker but Kyona quickly gets to the ropes, Kyona applies a cross-arm submission but Storm reverses it, Kyona flings Storm to the mat but Storm catches her kick and offers a handshake. Kyona kicks her instead and goes for shoulderblocks, which eventually sends Storm down to the mat. Storm gets back up and kicks Kyona in the chest, hip attacks by Storm and Kyona falls out of the ring. Storm goes out to the apron and kicks Kyona in the chest, she then goes down to the floor with Kyona but Kyona ducks her chop and Storm hits the ring post by accident. It happens again, Kyona runs down the aisle and hits a body avalanche to Storm against the post. Kyona rolls Storm back in and they trade elbows, Storm throws Kyona into the corner but Kyona blocks the Backstabber attempt and goes up top. Storm punches her before she can jump off and hits a bridging Samoan Drop for a two count. Storm picks up Kyona and hits a snap German, Kyona quickly gets back up however and hits a lariat for a two count. Kyona tackles Storm into the corner and puts her on the top turnbuckle, she grabs Storm and delivers a sit-down powerbomb for a two count. Kyona goes up top and hits the diving bodypress, but Storm kicks out of the corner. Kyona goes for the Hammer Throw Powerbomb but Storm blocks it and hits the Reverse Neckbreaker for a two count. Storm picks up Kyona but Kyona hits a back bodydrop, headbutt by Storm and she hits a second one before delivering the Backstabber. Storm goes up top and she nails the diving guillotine drop, and she gets the three count! Toni Storm retains the championship.

Samurai TV isn’t doing this show any favors, as again we are missing several minutes of the match. But what they showed was solid, Storm is a 21 year old that wrestles like a ten year veteran, and Kyona is progressing very well. Some of the transitions were rough but that may have been due to the clipping, and I liked that since Kyona never hit her big finisher that it always felt like she was one move away from stealing the win. Overall a good display by both, just wish the title match/co-main was shown in full.  Mildly Recommended

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(c) Io Shirai vs. Kairi Hojo
World of Stardom Championship

Few feuds have been as viciously contested in the last two years in Stardom as Io Shirai vs. Kairi Hojo. Stardom is really smart at keeping them apart most of the time so it doesn’t get stale, however, as this is only their fourth singles match since early 2015. When Kairi and Io face off it is about more than just the championship, as Io is the Ace but Kairi really wants to be the Ace and is tired of being the #2 wrestler. They will do literally anything to defeat each other, whether it be gansobombs off the apron or dives off the balcony – their matches always take it up a notch. Since this is the main event on one of their bigger shows of the year, I suspect that tonight will be no different.

They start slow as Io gets the early advantage, they trade leg holds on the mat until Kairi hits a flying neckbreaker. Kairi chops Io in the corner but Io shrugs it off and walks away, she back bodydrops Kairi over the top rope but Kairi lands on the apron. Io joins her and goes for the apron gansobomb again, but Kairi blocks it and hits a hard elbow. Kairi kicks Io back into the ring but Io avoids her charge in the corner, she goes out to the apron and snaps Kairi’s arm over the second rope. Io goes to work on Kairi’s arm before chopping her in the ropes, Kairi comes back with a headscissors however and Io falls out of the ring. Kairi goes up top but Io quickly rolls back into the ring, she joins Kairi up top and snaps her arm over the top rope. Io goes out to the floor with her but Kairi reverses and Irish whip and sends Io into a row of chairs. Kairi takes Io up into the bleachers and goes for the Alabama Slam on the floor, but Io blocks it. Io goes for a piledriver which is also blocked, but Io connects with the palm strike and goes up to the balcony. As Kairi stands up, Io dives off the balcony with a moonsault, landing on her feet while narrowly missing the top step in the process.

stardom3-20-6Io returns to the ring with Kairi very slowly following, Io stomps on Kairi and kicks her down into the corner. Io goes for a running double knee but Kairi springs up and hits the spear, Kairi elbows Io into the corner but Io avoids her charge and slides out to the apron. Io goes for the swandive dropkick but Kairi elbows her halfway through it, leaving Io hanging over the top rope. Kairi quickly goes up top and hits a diving footstomp to Io’s back, crab hold by Kairi but Io slowly crawls to the corner to force the break. Io tries to crawl to the apron but Kairi applies the Ikari anyway in the ropes, while the referee yells at her to let go. She does so after a moment and hits a footstomp to Io’s back, Kairi goes up top but Io slowly gets up and elbows her before she can jump off. Kairi knocks Io back into the ring, she goes for the FKE (Flying Kabuki Elbow) but Io dropkicks her on the way down. Tiger Feint Kick by Io and she delivers a swandive dropkick, cover by Io but it gets two. Io gets Kairi’s waist but Kairi elbows her off and kicks Io in the back. Kick by Io and she goes for the double underhook facebuster, but Kairi blocks it and hits the Sliding D. Kairi goes up top and goes for the diving elbow drop, but Io gets both feet up, kicking Kairi in her injured arm.

A dropkick by Io sends Kairi to the apron, and Io hits a slingshot dropkick to join Kairi. Io goes for the apron gansobomb again but Kairi blocks it and back bodydrops Io to the floor. Kairi then goes up top and delivers the diving elbow drop down onto Io and the blob of wrestlers surrounding her, sending everyone crashing to the floor. Kairi rolls back in with Io a few moments behind, Alabama Slam by Kairi in front of the corner and she goes for a Sliding D, but Io ducks it and rolls her up for two. Double underhook facebuster by Io, she goes up top quickly but Kairi recovers and knocks her down into the Tree of Woe. Marine Spike by Kairi, she goes back up top and nails the diving elbow drop, but Io barely gets a shoulder up on the cover. Spinning backfists by Kairi but Io blocks one and delivers the package German for a two count. Io goes up top and hits the moonsault, but Kairi kicks out of the pin. Palm strikes by Io, she goes off the ropes but Kairi catches her with a spear. Kairi goes for the Alabama Slam but Io blocks it and drops Kairi with a tombstone piledriver. Io goes back up top and hits a second moonsault, cover by Io and this time she gets the three count! Io Shirai is still your champion.

I’m not great at comparing matches against each other so I am not sure where I would rank this one compared to their last few matches, but it was certainly an excellent match. Samurai TV was kind enough to show this one in full, and I think the multiple camera angles helped put over how crazy some of the spots were. Io came within inches of tumbling down the steps on the moonsault off the balcony, which isn’t unusual for her on that move, and everything was hit snug throughout the match. I love that there were so many reversals, these two know each other so well that it makes sense that they would know what is coming next in order to block it. There were some issues with long term selling but that’s a staple of Io’s big matches and within the story they are telling it isn’t really something that bothers me. Innovative and most importantly captivating from bell to bell, another high quality match from one of the best wrestlers in the world.  Highly Recommended